Growing Your Family And Career with Emily Mendenhall

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This transcript was created using AI. Please forgive any discrepencies.

[Intro] Welcome to Easy Style with Sami. I’m your host Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each episode, I invite a friend, family member or colleague or just someone I’ve met on this journey called life to come and share their personal style and approach to business, parenting, life and everything in between. You’ll hear motivational and inspirational stories that will help you refine and build your own personal style. Remember, style is easy when it comes from within.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of easy style with Sami today. My guest is Emily Mendenhall. Emily, thank you so much for being here.

[Emily Mendenhall] Oh, thanks for having me. Great to see you, Sami.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] It is I know Emily and I have known each other I think since like, fresh out of the womb, probably. Yes. Yeah. And, you know, haven’t necessarily kept in close contact for a while. But I have loved following all of the things that you’re doing the beauty of social media. So I’m super excited to have you here to be able to reconnect because of this podcast and just for you to kind of share your unique experiences with the listeners.

[Emily Mendenhall] Ya know, thanks for having me. It’s always fun to talk about how we balance these crazy paths we follow. So

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Exactly, yes. And yours is a unique one. And I love it. I’m so excited to hear about it. So why don’t you just start by kind of introducing people to who you are?

[Emily Mendenhall] Well, my name is Emily Mendenhall. And I am a professor at Georgetown University. I’m also a mom of two girls seven and almost 10. And I’ve been living in the Washington DC area for the last 10 years. But between the 10 years from living in Okoboji, Iowa, where Sammy and I grew up and moving to DC, I lived in Chicago, Atlanta, North Carolina, India, South Africa, I had a daughter in the UK, I had a daughter in DC. And we’ve traveled pretty extensively, because a lot of my research is on global health. So it’s been a pretty wild ride.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, well, and this is what I’m so excited to talk to you because we’ve had so many conversations about moms and how our career paths kind of ebb and flow within our stage of life with our kids. And like you just mentioned, you’ve lived and traveled all over the world while getting married while having kids while finishing your PhD, like while doing all the things was that something you always wanted to do was kind of travel the world? Was it because of the work that you were doing? Or is like a combination of all of the things?

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, yeah, I’ve always been deeply curious and nosy person. And I think I’m by training. I have a PhD in anthropology and anthropology. Anthropologists are notoriously very nosy, because we’re always asking why why? What what, what do you think about that? You know, why did you do that? And it’s kind of, you know, our bread and butter of our field is really getting to the nitty gritty of how things are in the world and how things work. And so I was drawn to that discipline, partly because of my curiosity, I think. But I’ve always yeah, I’ve always had the bug. I traveled a lot as a kid with my family. Even though we lived in rural Iowa, my grandmother was from London. So I spent quite a bit of time in places that were less familiar. Maybe to some of our classmates just because of that exposure. So I’ve always been had some wanderlust, I guess,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] yeah. Well, and your husband also travels a lot for his work.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, so my husband’s I’ve, so I’m a professor at Georgetown in international affairs, and he is a professor Hopkins in in global health, he does a lot of health policy. So we’re both traveling quite a bit after through COVID, it’s really changed, we do a lot less traveling, he actually particularly travels a lot less after COVID, which is awesome, because it’s really stressful, to not have family nearby. My family lives in Iowa. I have one cousin who’s amazing, but also has a really busy life. So we will have a lot of support with our kids. We’ve had to do a lot of it on our own. And we haven’t had like we had an Au Pair briefly during COVID. But we haven’t had a lot of help. So yeah,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] it’s a lot. It’s a lot. But what is that like, like when you’re traveling all over the place? I mean, a lot of people would maybe say, Well, we’re gonna pause on having a family. We’re gonna wait until we get through maybe like these research projects, like what was it with the two of you was it just, you know, we’re just going to do this and travel with our kids and just make that part of our lifestyle? Like, how did you approach that?

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah. Well, partly my sister was having kids and we wanted to have kids about the same time so I that was part of it. But also, yeah, we we didn’t so a lot of academics are having so I just turned 40 this year as you probably did. And you know, a lot of a lot of my friends are having kids now and I used to joke you know about being, you know, in DC considered almost a teen mom, like, I was so young, because I was 30 when I had my first kid, and in DC, it’s like 4045, when people have their first kid, compared to home when people are like 20, early 20s, having the first kids did a really big cultural divide, no is kind of straddling those two worlds. But, you know, we, I mean, I got pregnant in South Africa, interviewed for jobs in DC, and then had my daughter in London. And so I had this like, very transnational pregnancy, but that’s just exemplary of our life. You know, my, then my, my eldest had her first birthday in Nairobi. And then my second one, like, I’ve spent so much time alone, or with Adam, traveling to especially, I was doing a lot of work in Johannesburg, South Africa, when my kids were really young. And I would actually take them and stay with a good friend. Actually, Julie and Molly powers has in Moira lived in Johannesburg, and we would crash with them in Yes, sometimes for a couple of months for work. So that was really amazing to be able to share those moments of early childhood. But you know, you can’t really do anything without a village. So it really depended on friends and colleagues in different places where I’ve gone. Actually, when we were in Nairobi for about four months, when Fiona was 10 months to 14 months, we lived with friends as well and shared their nanny, and it was really, really, really cool.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I mean, I think that’s got to be just like some of the most incredible memories and experiences that you could never have, like, you know, what would you say to parents that are nervous even just about taking a trip, like, let alone like, let’s pretend COVID isn’t a thing. We’re not worried about all of the health issues and or concerns about that with travel? Like, you know, just kind of picking up your kids and not being afraid to take them to see the world or even just like locally see the country like travel the country? Like do you have any tips or things that kind of saved you in traveling with kids?

[Emily Mendenhall] Um, do I just think everyone is different, right? Like some people really like to travel and some people don’t. And I just I don’t think it’s I think it’s just really fun. I constantly have the travel bug it’s I like to learn and work with people in the in different places. But I think if you’re traveling with kids just don’t sweat it just act like they’re humans. You have, you know, they have different needs. And they’re a little bit needier. I mean my youngest for a long time when she was small. She like licked everything. So she had this licking problem and be like, Oh, my God, so you’re gonna get giardia? Stop licking, your public health. lickable, please, you know, but I think, you know, people worry about going to different places. But you know, there’s a lot of uncertainty and lack of safety in the US, just as in other places. So, you know, I don’t know, there’s beauty everywhere. And I think showing kids beauty across cultures and contexts and people is really important.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I agree with that. And I like you was very fortunate. We traveled a ton growing up. And I think it definitely gives you a different perspective on how big the world is. But also at the same time how small it is like, I love that like you were staying with family friend, adjacent people in South Africa. Like how random is that? That’s super cool.

[Emily Mendenhall] Amsterdam, actually, last week, giving a talk and I played hooky from this workshop I was supposed to be at for a day to see them because they just moved to Amsterdam from Johannesburg. Oh, moving all around the world who you can connect with. It’s really special.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Do you think your kids have the travel travel bug? Do you think there’ll be the same as they get older that they’ll be like, Okay, where are you? When are you guys gonna take us somewhere? Let’s go somewhere.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, I mean, they’re pretty good travelers now. They, you know, the, the problem is they just want to put like stuffies in their suitcases and like you need underwear. You can’t just do stuff he’s like, but this is all I have. I don’t have room for underwear. And I’m like, but you got to take out a stuffy so I think they’ll get to be better packers, but they are super flexible. You know, which I think is? Yeah, it’s really good. Yeah.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Okay, so let’s flip gears a little bit, because you mentioned your professor in international relations. You’re you’ve got a whole public health background, you wrote a book about COVID. And kind of how all of that plays out in our small community, which is a fantastic read. We’ll link that up in the show notes. But kind of, you know, as you’re thinking about, like research and things that you’re working on, like where’s kind of your next place that you’re excited to learn more about?

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, well, I actually didn’t share this with you, but I just got a Guggenheim Fellowship, which is giving me a year to write and read and reflect done. I’m going to try to take a little break. I’ve been working really hard for the last 20 years on my career and I really tired and I’m writing a book I’m actually working working on two books right now. But I’m just don’t need to do I won’t be teaching or doing all this service that professors do for the institution’s. I’m really thrilled about that relation. My kids are like, well, first of all, Zoey kept saying Mommy got a Google Home. Everyone’s like, what is this Google thing? I’m like, No, it’s not that. But um, it was really funny. And they’re like, Well, you’re not working next year. So we don’t ever have to go to aftercare. That’s like, no, like, kind of, I guess, maybe not. But it’s, it’s really funny. But I’m working on two books. Actually, I have a book that’s written that I’m trying to find a publisher for. That’s about my great grandmother, who was a spy during the Irish revolution, the Irish war of independence. And it’s the story that my uncle who unfortunately passed away 15 years ago, did all this digging into our genealogy. So he did his side of his family, and it took two months. Then he did his wife’s side of the family, her maternal side, and he was like, What is this investigator Gator, we found out when my grandmother was 96, that she’d been living a secret with a secret identity for seven decades.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] You’re so that’s, that’s like proof that truth. Truth is stranger than fiction, like you can’t make.

[Emily Mendenhall] It is an amazing story. And I have been, yeah, really loving the story. And I kind of grew up with this story. So we would go, you know, my uncle was doing this research as I was a young person, you know. And I knew my great grandmother, I spent quite a bit of time with her, which is why we were going to London when I was little. And so it’s just a wonderful story, a very intense story. And so I wrote the book, and I’m trying to publish it. And so that’s one piece. It’s been really fun to work with historical fiction, which is, there’s a lot I’ve had to kind of create. And it’s a lot of dialogue. So that was a really fun genre to work in. And I’m also writing a book on lung COVID, which is what the Guggenheim is for. And I yeah, I have a piece in Scientific American that came out actually last week. And I have a few other kind of pieces I’m working on as I’m writing and doing research for this book. So if anyone has lung COVID, or it’s working on lung COVID, send me a message. It’s been really just a powerful experience to do this work. And, you know, I’ve been studying chronic illness and the interplay between trauma and chronic illness for a really long time. And what lung COVID does is it opens the space to think about contested conditions, when people don’t feel believed when their conditions are, you know, what does it mean, to legitamate? Your suffering, you know, and what is long COVID? What isn’t? So I’m kind of dealing with all these questions, and really looking at people’s stories to untangle them.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] What I love about I think, to your approach, like I when I listened, and I don’t have the name of your book, on the top of my head, unmask Nikki, but when I listened to it, what I loved about it was like, you can definitely feel the anthropological storytelling side of your brain with like, the scientific research side, like you do such a great job of not just making it a clinical thing, like, Hey, here’s the things that happen. But interweaving all of those stories into it to make a beautiful book, I think you’re really good at that. And so it’s interesting that two different types of books that like the one you just finished and the one you’re working on, because it seems like it’s just a good mix of how your brain operates. But all digging back to what you said at the very beginning, which is I’m a very nosy person and just want to, like, uncover all these things and learn all this stuff.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, yeah. It’s so fun. Honestly, writing the fiction book was a huge challenge. The first draft was terrible, but I was trying to untangle all the details. And you know, actually, when you read it, I it is historical fiction, because some of it I had to make up but it’s almost all true. It’s all based on truth. And a lot of the actually story is documented in my uncle’s extensive data. I mean, I actually had this huge suitcase in London. And last summer I went for in June, before my kids were out. My mother in law came down and I went to London for a week and sat in my cousin’s place in Surrey, and went through this huge suitcase of data and letters and documents, and I copied some of it. My aunt also had a bunch of the documents. But then we went in, we interviewed like all these nuns, who some of them knew my grandma, you know, like, so fun. And we interviewed this, one of our landlords and went through this whole space. It was just amazing to do that, and I did it with my mom’s cousin actually. And it was just really fun to dig into that family story. So

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] what an incredible what an incredible experience like how most families like my grandma was really big into genealogy DEA and she before luckily, years before she passed, put books together for us on like our whole family history or family tree. So we have that that we can go back. But most people aren’t that lucky and they don’t have all of that stuff to kind of pass down. And I think those stories are so critically important. And similar to just your zest for travel. Like we got to take my kids to Taiwan right before COVID. And they got to meet family and actually experienced that culture. Now they’re obsessed, and they’re mad that they’re not more Chinese, like DNA, but they definitely identify with that part of their body. So I think that’s really cool that you have that and that you can continue to win what fun stories to share with your girls. So that my great your great, great grandmother was a spy? Who does have those stories to share? I love that. Um, well, you know, as you kind of think about this transition now from a busy, busy busy into, like, being able to work on a passion project, like, how would you think that that shift is gonna happen? Like, what are you excited about? What are you nervous about? Because that’s a big shift in your day to day life?

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, well, usually, the summers are a little bit more relaxed, being a professor has a big perk of not teaching in the summer. I mean, some people do teach in the summer. And I’m really, really fortunate that I’m a tenured full professor. And so I have a lot of job security. And, and you know that, you know, a lot of people in academia don’t have these days, it’s very difficult kind of changing. Work Environment. But I’m very lucky in in my position. And so in the summers, I yeah, I just, I often have some writing, usually, actually, right now, I guess the big difference is usually right now, in this month between finishing teaching at the beginning of May, and when my kids are out of school in mid June, because in Maryland, though, my kids go to school, Maryland, and they don’t finish school until mid June. So it’s like 17th, or 16th of June is their last day, which is earlier than in Iowa, and, or later than in Iowa. And I have six weeks, basically every year to do my big bulk of writing. So if I’m going to do a new piece or something, it’s like my time to have this really intellectual time into focus. And then maybe the rest of the summer, I’ll kind of work on it when I have some childcare, which is kind of spotty throughout the summer. But this time this summer, I just don’t feel any urgency. I have this time and space, I have an entire year to do all of this more than a year. So it honestly is really calming and relaxing. And it feels like a huge, huge change. Nice.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, no, that’s super, I’m excited for you for that. I think it’s interesting when we shift into a new dynamic, like I know, for us, shifting from, you know, having our schedule going through COVID When the schedules were all flipped around. And now we’re working in homeschooling to moving to like, every time there’s a shift in the schedule, it’s like you have to find that new energy and that new, kind of the new normal, which I for us has happened almost every year, for the last, gosh, four or five years, we have to find a new schedule and a new routine. But that’s fun that you get the time and space to kind of figure out what do you want that to be and dictate that for yourself. And yeah, go to aftercare because you’re you’re just going to be a mom all the time.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah. And in July, and most of August, my kids aren’t going to be in camps. And you know, in this like in our kind of culture of child care, it was when we have two working parents, who are most kids are in camps all summer. And so I’m hopefully I just want my kids to have some downtime. We have really busy schedules were in there and so many activities, they’re in dance there, they play both play the violin, they do sports, and, you know, we just want to have some downtime and play time all summer. So I’m hoping it goes well.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I think that’s so good. Yeah. And we’ll actually get to hang out this summer, because we’ll both be in the same place for quite some time.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, I’m hoping Lori can help teach my kids how to ski. And

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I never learned how to ski and in fact, funny story. And Laura was on the podcast earlier, so I’ll link up her episode in the show notes as well. But we I was boating with Lori and her dad was going to teach us how to water ski. So we have the water skis that have like the rope between them. And he started us off from the beach. And so I was sitting on the beach, I had the ski rope. And he’s like, Okay, 321 go well, we went and I got scared let go and happen to fall like just on my butt. Like it wasn’t bad on a rock. But I was like, Yeah, nope. Done. I might have been like, I don’t know, seven or eight. I wasn’t that old, but I’ve never done it since then.

[Emily Mendenhall] That’s scary, though. I mean those variances as a kid can really throw you off. We took my kids downhill skiing for a weekend in at like Liberty mountain, you know, in, in Pennsylvania was a very you know us growing up in the Midwest, you can drive to Colorado or something but take snow, you know, isn’t it, but we had so much fun. And I think my kids are ready to ski. But I’ve been wakeboarding forever for like 30. You know, like, we just stopped skiing at some point, just wakeboarding. I guess that Laurie and Aaron do, but I’m hoping that they can help my kids ski. Because I think they’re really ready for it. And they just they’re so good.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, I think it’s easier to have almost easier to have somebody else. Teach your kids some of those things. Because like, we as parents give off, whether we mean to or not certain energy about like nervousness or excitement, or like pressure, whatever. So to have somebody else do it. It’s like, okay, like, I’m gonna list or like, yeah, I don’t want to listen to what you I can do it myself, I can do it my way, right? Having somebody else can really help make it a little bit of an easier process, I think at all things. Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. Fingers crossed, right? We’re getting ready to start to teach my daughter how to drive. And it’s terrifying. And she doesn’t want to do it. And so like, there’s already a whole bunch of anxiety. So we’ll see how it goes.

[Emily Mendenhall] That she needs you like, What has she 15? She’ll be 15

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] in December. Yeah. Oh, my God. Yeah. So she’s got to do Driver’s Ed. And we told her you have to learn to drive. Even if you don’t want to drive on a regular basis, you need to learn because it would be like in case of an emergency. Like, you need to be able to either get somewhere or take someone somewhere or like you just need to learn to drive. It’s a skill you need to learn. So yeah. I’ll keep you posted on how that one goes. Okay. Well, I mean,

[Emily Mendenhall] practicing on like the back roads, or how are you? I mean, I was a terrible driver at 15 and 16. You’re driving? I mean, I really like by big roads, like in Okoboji and around, you know, lakes area. There were like rural roads. It wasn’t even hard driving. And I had a hard time so,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] oh, well, she can’t in Minnesota. You can’t have your permit till you’re 15. So she’s not learning to drive yet. But yes, I remember driving for the first time out on our property. And we just drove around in the grass. And like, did it like that’s where I drove for the first time. So we’ll see. I mean, I think maybe we’ll take her down to Okoboji and have her drive around down there. We live in the burbs. And so there’s a lot of like, small, we can drive through the neighborhood here. And she won’t have to get on any major roads. But no, yeah, learning to drive in the cities is a very different beast. Yeah. So I’m like, here’s the paths you can take. So you don’t have to go on any major roads. And we live really close to their schools. And we’ll see but it’s a whole. It’s a whole nother thing. I don’t know who’s gonna teach her to drive? Because I know, we’re gonna be sitting in that seat anxious, and she’s gonna feel it. I can’t nope, no worries. Oh, okay. Okay, well, I so appreciate you showing up and sharing your story, your experience. I think you are so inspirational, because like you said, you’ve accomplished a lot at 40 years old and your career and I’m so excited for the things that are coming up in your Google Home award. I love that. But I would love to wrap this up with the same five questions we ask every guest if that’s cool with you. Yeah, great. Okay, so where do you go for either personal development or if you are looking for resource to learn more, and I know you’re an academic so that’s probably a very different question for you than how I asked most people.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, I, I read a lot obviously. Um, when I was having Fiona I read 20 books on natural childbirth and then had a C section. So I was like, you know, I just I read it read read until I get something that feel comfortable. So that’s a huge part of me. I’m always reading parenting books. My oldest daughter has anxiety and ADHD. So I’ve read a lot of work on ADHD and anxiety in children. Um, I’ve been reading Dr. Becky. Sorry, Kennedy’s book. Inside recently. It is one of the best parenting books I’ve ever read. I’d really recommend everyone looking at that. Yeah, I listened to a lot of podcasts. Usually I run or walk every day and I listen to podcasts, either about the news or about mindfulness or I do some meditations. I also have had a yoga practice for 25 yours that is really important and grounding for me. Without my yoga practice, I would just not be centered. So yeah, I practice Ashtanga for a long time, but my studio closed. So I’ve been practicing. Like, how are you yoga and I used to hate hot yoga. I used to I went to a class and like walked out once because I was like, I hate this. But there’s something I think about our hormones and our bodies in midlife when they start shifting and changing. And I love it now, it’s like, years ago, I would be like, Oh my god, I’m not doing that. That’s the worst thing it’s like, but I just really, I love really love it. It’s been really grounding for me. I also do a lot of pottery. So pottery. So one of the ways I promote I do mental health IQ say it’s like the cheapest therapy is there’s this community up. Sorry. There’s a lot of pollen right now. Yeah. And there’s, it’s called Glen Echo Park. It’s actually a national park, but it’s an art studio and an art space. And we actually we live really close to it in DC. And my kids do Irish dance there. And they do. Suzuki violin. Yeah, as Ben does a bunch of music, but they have tons of art. And Nixon actually was having this big event in the mall, which he cancelled right away. And he had these big yurts that were on the mall. And they needed to get rid of and this guy, Jeff Kirk, who’s the head of the pottery studio, got wind of this, and they were just setting up Glencoe Park as a national park. And so he ran down and he got all of his buddies to move the yurts to the park. So I go once a week and do pottery, thanks to a call. With like, all the retirements and I tell everyone, I’m in meetings, and it’s important thing for my mental health is to just get my hands in the clay and center myself. I actually had to take a break. This winter from my pottery. I’m gonna start again this summer, because they organized the fourth grade play and it took almost

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] the opposite of mental health.

[Emily Mendenhall] Time, but it’s really important to support my daughter. Oh, so much work. Oh my God, these PTAs they are running on unpaid labor of working moms. I’ve got to say that ever.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I’m sure you’re not alone in that feeling.

[Emily Mendenhall] was like the busiest moms who were who are running things. It’s crazy.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I’m the worst mom volunteer on the planet.

[Emily Mendenhall] It’s it’s, anyway, this is this is what I’ve learned last several years.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] My takeaway, okay. Would you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert? Oh,

[Emily Mendenhall] my God, I figured out that introverts get exhausted by being around other people when I was like, 30, I was like, Why are you so tired? I am like, such an extrovert like to an extreme. Like, I’ll finish teaching a class for two and a half hours and just be like, so amped. And then I’ll talk with my students for like an hour outside of the classroom because they like have all these questions. I’m like, Yeah, let’s keep going. Let’s keep going. You know, and I talked to other colleagues who finished teaching, they’re so tired, they have to go hide in their office and take a nap. So I’m

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] an extrovert. an extrovert? Yes. What is something that’s on your goal list for this year, either personal or professional.

[Emily Mendenhall] I really want to learn how to make a tea pot. I am really a bad Potter. So one of the really good things about pottery for me is I’m really bad at it. Like I do fit some starts, I’ll do it for a while. And then like, I did it in high school. And then I did it when I was doing my PhD. And now I’m back doing it. I’m not very good. But I really love it. It’s so it’s really good to be in love with a project or something that you’re very bad at, especially if you’re good at I mean, I’m bad at a lot of things. But this is something that I enjoy working with and growing with. And I it’s for me, I you know, I love making pottery and I wish I was better at and enjoyed more the finishing process to produce the pot. It just feels so good in my body. And it’s so relaxing and good for my mental health. So I’m going to focus a little bit more and learn how to make a tea pot, which is very, very hard to haul like, they’re amazing. They’re like, they’re some of my inspirations. But for me, it’s more about my mental health. But I do want to smuggle I love that because it’s like the

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] no pressure like you can just, it’s just something you can just do. There’s no the outcome doesn’t necessarily matter.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, it’s about process and it’s about, you know,

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] what’s a piece of advice that someone has given you or you’ve heard somewhere that has kind of stuck with you?

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, I saw that question. I was wondering if it should be. Well, I guess actually, one piece of advice is don’t Don’t put things on hold in your life for your work. And that is something we did is that we had kids when people were like, you’re having kids? And then I was like, Yeah. And, and then I had another one. And people were like, What are you doing? You know, you’re on the tenure track, you’re teaching and you’re doing this stuff. Like, why are you having kids now? And you know, honestly, it was really hard. And I don’t think I slept for a really many, many years very well. But it, I’m really glad that we did it when we did, and I didn’t listen to anyone else. But, you know, some one of some advice that I did have was just like, you know, walk to the beat of your own drum, you know, you know, really, if you if it’s, if it’s time, you don’t have to do what people tell you. And don’t let people scare you. You know, everyone always talks about these doomsday things, or tries to use fear as a motivator. And I don’t I don’t really buy into that. I think that I mean, I’ve been incredibly supportive and largely equal partnership. So it’s enabled me to, I mean, in my career, and my family, without that, I mean, it’s Abdun flowed. But without that, it would have been almost impossible to do what we’ve done. And we spend so much time with our kids, like, I don’t really have a social life beyond my family. Which, you know, some people like that, and some people don’t. But that’s, I mean, they’re like, my everything. Yeah. So. And I

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] think that’s great advice, even coming from somebody like you who’s in the public health space, who does see some of the worst of the worst of what could be out like what’s out, right, like you, you see a lot of things that aren’t rosy and happy. So I think that’s great that you have that perspective, and that you share that perspective. That’s super awesome. Okay, and you’ve already shared some of these, but what would you say is a non negotiable for you in your life?

[Emily Mendenhall] Family time, maybe, you know, like, work life balance, bedtime, like I do most mornings, my husband works in Baltimore. So it’s like a 50 hour drive. So when he goes to work, then there are 50 minute, not hour, originally, a dramatic hour. So he goes at five in the morning, it’s like 15 minutes, but it goes during rush hour, like after drop off, or whatever, it’s like an hour and a half or two hours. So he usually goes really early, and then comes back at like three. So I usually do mornings. But like that, that’s just precious time. So I don’t, I because I have the privilege of owning my time and really negotiate it, I don’t really have meetings before 930 or 10. So I like do my morning with my girls, I drop them on the bus, I go for a run or walk with my dog, and then I’ll get ready for meetings. And you know, sometimes I wake up at six and do some work if I need to. But before they wake up, but time with my girls was really non negotiable. Like people asked me to do stuff after 5pm. And I’m like, I don’t have childcare. I know. And I don’t go to a lot of evening things, you know, when my kids are in 10 years, my kids are gonna be gone, I’m gonna go wrenching you. I’m not halfway through my career, you know, I will have many years I can go at night events, and I can host distinguished people and do all that stuff. And so, really having boundaries with my fam for my family matters. Otherwise, I mean, you can just fill your time, all day long, with all sorts of things. And, you know, everything can seem like, Oh, I really should do that. But honestly, you know, I actually tried to perform prioritizing my kids and perform being a mother in the public or in the My Workspace a lot. People will email with, like, 25 people, like we expect you to be here at 6pm to do this. And I’ll say, I’ll respond all the way like, I’m so sorry, I have to take my kids to the piano lesson or whatever their their federal lesson or you know, their swim practice. That’s not a time that works for me. And I think it’s more it’s important that, especially, especially as a professor, and I talk a lot about this with my students, it’s important to perform balance, and to say, that’s my time. That’s my time. You don’t own all of my time. You know, we’re all about productivity, efficiency and work in America. But you know, I’m a human, and I have people who depend on me, and they deserve that. So you know, really being explicit with that. I guess that’s what I’m probably most fierce about is that time. Well, that’s such a good lesson in that

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] we teach people how to treat us, we can set our own boundaries. And we have to always advocate for ourselves in whatever way makes the most sense. So I think yes, that is beautiful. And I love that you use that as an example also, because I think a lot of times, I try to eliminate sugar out of my vocabulary, but I think a lot of times too. We feel depressed Sure. So it’s almost like bringing the piece of advice that you had, which is like, don’t let people scare you into doing things. Like, you know them saying this is the expectation and you say, Well, that just doesn’t work for me. Let’s figure out something else like is 100% Okay, but we often feel nervous to advocate for ourselves in that way because of the repercussions. So I love that you share that. And I think that’s a great way to kind of wrap things up. Plus, my dog is about ready to lose her mind. I’ll be right there. Emily, if people want to connect with you, check out more about your book unmasked, or kind of stay, you know, in contact with us so they can see about all these other awesome projects you’re working on? How do they do that?

[Emily Mendenhall] You can get my contact information and info about my books and, and interviews and stuff on Emily There’s a bunch of information there. So check it out. And you can click to a bunch of my op eds, if you want to read smaller tidbits, but there is an audio book, as you mentioned, which is

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] yep, I love it. Well, I so appreciate you being here. And we’ll link all of that up in the show notes. But Emily, thanks for coming on and being guest.

[Emily Mendenhall] Yeah, thanks for the invitation, Sammy, it’s so wonderful to share the space with you.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] It was so great. Being able to catch up with Emily on today’s episode, I hope that she inspired you to really just make decisions for yourself. There’s the path that everyone else travels but you walk to the beat of your own drum. And trust your intuition and trust what you want for yourself, your family and your life even if it means doing things a little bit differently or on your own terms. You can grab the show notes for this episode at But thank you again to Emily so much for joining me on this episode. Subscribe wherever you listen, please, please, please and I’d love it if you leave us a review. It helps us get in front of more people that might want to listen to a podcast like this. But for now, I’ll see you in the next one.


Making life choices isn’t always easy. Career changes, when (or if) to have a family, where to live, etc. Everyone around you will their own opinions about what is right for you. What do you listen to and what don’t you? How do you make choices that might not be what most think you should do? Emily Mendenhall has always done what feels right to her and made some decisions that most in her career path thought were different. Hear her story and get inspired to carve your own path and have it all.

In this episode we discuss

  • Emily’s thirst for knowledge and asking questions.
  • Starting a family while also building her career.
  • Writing her first historical nonfiction book.
  • Finding space for yourself and prioritizing your mental health.

Want to skip ahead?

[1:24] Who is Emily Mendenhall?
[4:36] Traveling the world while growing a family.
[11:29] Emily’s newest research project
[11:29] Writing her first historical fiction book about her family.
[24:03] Where does Emily go for personal development?
[27:49] Is Emily an introvert or extrovert?
[28:30] One goal for the upcoming year.
[29:45] Piece of advice that has stuck with her
[32:01] What’s a non-negotiable?

Emily Mendenhall

Emily Mendenhall